March 8, 2018 / 10:51 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. vehicle recalls fall to lowest level since 2013 - agency

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. motor vehicle recalls fell to 30.7 million in 2017, the lowest level since 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Thursday, after a record 53 million were recalled in 2016 when a callback linked to deadly airbags was expanded.

U.S. regulators have said recalls to replace Takata Corp airbag inflators will eventually affect at least 65 million inflators in 42 million U.S. vehicles built by 19 automakers, making it the largest U.S. auto safety campaign ever.

The NHTSA has pressured automakers to recall more vehicles since 2014 after an ignition switch defect in General Motors Co cars was linked to 124 deaths. The agency imposed record fines on companies that failed to follow safety rules.

From 2014 through 2016, U.S. auto safety recalls set annual records of almost 50 million or more annually. In the prior 20 years, annual U.S. auto recalls ranged from 10.2 million to 30.8 million.

Under aggressive enforcement by the Obama administration, automakers issued a record 924 recall campaigns in 2016, up 7 percent over the previous high in 2015. In 2017, total recall campaigns fell to 813.

U.S. traffic deaths jumped 5.6 percent in 2016 to a decade-high of 37,461. They were up 0.1 percent in the first nine months of 2017, according to preliminary NHTSA data. Since President Donald Trump took office, NHTSA has not imposed any new vehicle safety fines. The agency remains without a permanent head more than 13 months after Trump took office and Democrats have urged him to nominate a candidate.

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Susan Thomas

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